Although grill pans are sometimes referred to as griddles, the difference is visible: A griddle has a flat surface, while a grill pan is covered with ridges. These ridges are raised about half a centimeter, which allows juices to drip off foods as they cook and creates char marks as well as a crispier texture, similar to food cooked on an outdoor grill.
From shape and size to design and material, there’s a grill pan for every cook’s needs. Choose from square, round or rectangular pans that fit one or two stovetop burners. Opt for long, single handles or shorter double handles and pick from different materials including cast iron, enameled cast iron, copper, stainless steel and anodized nonstick aluminum. For double the cooking fun with a single tool (which saves storage space!), a reversible griddle-grill pan allows you to flip pancakes on one side and grill burgers on the other.
Top-rated cast-iron grill pans retain heat better than aluminum and feature higher ridges to help keep juices and oil off food, allowing for crispier, more uniform char marks. If your budget allows, an enamel coating over cast iron helps make clean-up easier. However, cast iron takes longer to heat on an electric stove, and it can easily scratch the surface of a glass-topped stove.
Meat lovers and vegetarians alike can enjoy grilling foods that show off pretty char marks, including juicy burgers, chicken breast and pork chops, shrimp and scallops, thick slices of portobello mushrooms and other sturdy vegetables, and even a classic grilled cheese sandwich or panini.
To use a grill pan, preheat the pan for five minutes over medium-high heat. Flick a few drops of water on the grill pan; if they evaporate quickly, your pan is ready to use. Make sure your stove is well-ventilated to prevent an overly smoky kitchen.
Next, add a hint of neutral-flavored oil by carefully rubbing a paper towel dipped in oil over the surface of the pan. This helps prevent food from sticking.
Prep food to be uniform in thickness, then place on the grill pan, cooking on both sides to ensure it is cooked to the proper internal temperature. If meat or poultry needs additional cooking time, cover it with an inverted pan to keep it from drying out. If your grill pan is small and light enough, transfer it to the oven to finish cooking.
While grill pans can’t fully replicate the authentic outdoor grill’s smoky flavor, you can enjoy a hint of delicious char-grilled taste year-round.